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President Bush traveled throughout Europe and Russia to Latvia, The Netherlands, Russia, and Georgia from May 6-10 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. His visit honored the shared sacrifice of millions of Americans and Europeans to defeat tyranny, and marked the growth of democracy throughout the continent. Building on the President's February visit to Europe, this trip underscored the common commitment of the United States and our European allies and partners to work together to advance freedom, prosperity, and tolerance in Europe, its neighborhood, and beyond.
In Riga, Latvia, President Bush met the Presidents of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania and participated in a bilateral program. In the Netherlands, the President held bilateral meetings and commemorated Victory in Europe Day at the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial at Margraten near Maastricht. President Bush then traveled to Moscow, Russia and participated in the World War II commemoration ceremony and met with President Putin. The President concluded his trip with a visit to Tbilisi, Georgia to underscore his support for democracy, historic reform, and peaceful conflict resolution.
Below are some highlights from the President's speeches and meetings with foreign leaders during his visit.
As you build freedom in this country, you must know that the seeds of liberty you are planting in Georgian soil are flowering across the globe. (Applause.) I have come here to thank you for your courage. The American people value your friendship, and admire your determination. On behalf of all Americans, thank you, God bless you. Sakartvelos gaumarjos.
"And so we come to this ground to remember the cause for which these soldiers fought and triumphed. At the outset of the war, there were those who believed that democracy was too soft to survive, especially against a Nazi Germany, that boasted the most professional, well-equipped and highly-trained military forces in the world. Yet, this military would be brought down by a coalition of armies from our democratic allies and freedom fighters from occupied lands and underground resistance leaders. They fought side-by-side with American GIs, who, only months before, had been farmers and bank clerks and factory hands. And the world's tyrants learned a lesson: There is no power like the power of freedom, and no soldier as strong as a soldier who fights for that freedom."
In these decades of struggle and purpose, the Baltic peoples kept a long vigil of suffering and hope. Though you lived in isolation, you were not alone. The United States refused to recognize your occupation by an empire. The flags of free Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania -- illegal at home -- flew proudly over diplomatic missions in the United States. And when you joined hands in protest and the empire fell away, the legacy of Yalta was finally buried, once and for all. The security and freedom of the Baltic nations is now more than a noble aspiration; it is the binding pledge of the alliance we share. The defense of your freedom -- in defense of your freedom you will never stand alone.
"I want to congratulate our friends and allies who stand here with me on the progress you've made in the past decade. You see, one of the important examples of these three countries is that not only have they become free societies, but they learn to adapt to the conditions of a free society. It's not easy to go from communism to democracy, and yet, these three nations have shown the world how to do so, and we congratulate you on your good, hard work. Your economies are flourishing; people are allowed to express their opinions. As a result, you've been readily accepted into NATO, and now the EU. And the world is better off because of the hard decisions your governments have made."